With the pandemic now entering its second year in the United States and with millions of vaccines to be administered, many people want to roll up their sleeves to help out but probably don’t know where to start.
Los Altos resident Sharon Leslie saw this as an opportunity to launch VaxVolunteers, a grassroots project that aims to connect potential volunteers with organizations that need help giving vaccines and working at clinics across the country.
Leslie, who is working toward a master’s degree in public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said she has been curating accurate COVID-19 information over the past year and has received many inquiries from people looking to volunteer.
“A lot of people began to ask me how they can help in their communities, both here in the Bay Area and nationally,” Leslie said. “There was no real central source for people to turn to, so I started looking online, thinking there would be kind of an easy way to make this happen.”
She began with simple Google searches, researching opportunities throughout California and compiling them into a spreadsheet.
She then enlisted a group of volunteers to gather and update needs statewide and nationally. Soon enough, she upgraded the spreadsheet to a website that is updated each day – VaxVolunteers.org.
“It turned into this clearinghouse for medical and nonmedical volunteer opportunities in all 50 states, and I figured if this was something that was important to people here, it was definitely important to people all over the country,” said Leslie, whose experience as a health-care provider includes working as an oncology physical therapist.
Since the website’s March 1 launch, Leslie said she has received a lot of positive feedback.
“I’ve heard from people all over the country who have been able to (find volunteering opportunities through VaxVolunteers), and that’s really gratifying,” she said. “This created a really simple, streamlined way for them to sign up at multiple places.”
Leslie emphasized the ongoing need for volunteers until vaccinations are administered to the millions of people in the U.S. still awaiting them.
She hopes to expand VaxVolunteers by reaching more people.
“Volunteers are desperately needed all over the country to aid in vaccination efforts,” Leslie said. “We’re all doing this on the side of all of our regular jobs, and I think our success really depends on getting the word out to people all over the country.”
To volunteer and for more information on VaxVolunteers, visit VaxVolunteers.org.